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Aussie plants may treat golden staph, Alzheimer’s more

Australian plants may soon play a role in the way healthcare professionals combat golden staph infections, heal wounds, and even treat diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Queensland University of Technology research into the use of plants in treating these conditions has been bolstered by $1 million in funding from Australian biotech company Health Focus Products Australia (HFPA) and the Commonwealth Government.

Dr Trudi Collet, from the Indigenous Medicines Group in the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said the research would draw upon Australia's biodiversity. “Australia's biodiversity is unique and its application for the treatment of global infections and diseases has incredible potential.”

She said native plants have a rich history with the Indigenous population and have been used for a wide variant of conditions, including wounds. “Irrespective of where traditional accounts with regards to the use of medicinal plants have come from … they haven't been scientifically validated for their various uses. That's where my research actually comes in.”

The new arrangement will provide $1,035,614 over three years to support three areas of research.

"Project one uses an Australian plant to treat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (known as golden staph), a common infection often acquired in hospital, which not only delays wound healing but is on the rise worldwide," Collet said. "We have some preliminary data with regards to this particular plant, and it is shown to have exceptional antimicrobial activity against golden staph.

"Our second project will explore the use of three different Australian plants for the treatment of chronic wounds. Globally, more than 7 million people suffer from a chronic wound, while in Australia, 433,000 people are diagnosed each year. The associated treatment costs are estimated to be in excess of $2.6 billion.

“As we know, there's an increase in antibiotic resistance," Collet said. "There is also a high incidence of community-acquired and hospital-acquired golden staph infections. Having a novel antibiotic that is able to successfully treat and clear a golden staph infection will have an enormous impact, not just within Australia but on a global scale as well.”

"The third project under the agreement concerns the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

"This is a fantastic journey QUT is set to undertake with HFPA and I believe the outcomes will have international significance."

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